House Panel Provides Strong DOE Focus, but More Funds Needed

The Department of Energy budget bill advanced Friday by the House Appropriations Committee includes important provisions to improve the agency’s critical clean energy programs, but the funding levels fall short of the bold increases necessary to catalyze clean energy innovation, combat climate change, and build an equitable, clean economy.

Gabe Alvarez co-authored this blog.

The Department of Energy (DOE) budget bill advanced Friday by the House Appropriations Committee includes important provisions to improve the agency’s critical clean energy programs, but the funding levels fall short of the bold increases necessary to catalyze clean energy innovation, combat climate change, and build an equitable, clean economy.

The House bill provides direction and resources for DOE to expand its efforts to combat the climate crisis, invest in clean energy development and deployment, and advance equity, environmental, and energy justice. However, the bill provides only a 15 percent increase to the agency’s science and energy funding, $1.7 billion short of the 28 percent increase proposed by the Biden-Harris administration. And NRDC recommends a $4.5 billion increase in DOE science and energy programs in the FY22 budget, even greater than the $3.6 billion proposed in the President’s budget.

As the appropriations process moves forward in the House, and the Senate takes up its version of the bill, we urge lawmakers to ramp up clean energy investment to at least the levels included in President Biden’s budget request. In parallel, as the infrastructure bill moves forward this summer, we hope to see even greater investments in DOE programs to match the scale of the crises we face, create millions of good-paying jobs transitioning to a clean energy economy, and advance innovation.

Important Provisions to Improve DOE programs

The direction in the House bill would improve DOE programs and focus the agency’s clean energy offices on addressing the climate crisis, creating good jobs, and advancing equity. It’s promising to see House leaders champion these important changes.

Below are just a few of the provisions in the bill that would help make DOE’s programs more effective:

  • Direction to incorporate equity and environmental & energy justice into agency planning and decisions through new analysis, grantmaking criteria, community engagement, and support for state, local, and tribal governments
  • Direction to establish a national energy strategy to address climate change, create jobs, increase economic prosperity, and enhance energy security
  • Direction to incorporate consideration of climate impacts into agency decisions
  • Direction to allocate funding for workforce development efforts in clean energy and energy efficiency industries
  • Funding and direction to support local governments and tribal governments in advancing clean energy, as well as Build Back Better grants to support states, local governments, U.S. territories, communities, and tribes
  • Direction to establish an Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations to fund large-scale demonstration projects, coordinate across offices, and address cross-cutting energy challenges
  • Robust cross-cutting funding for energy storage, including direction to support long-duration and emerging storage technologies
  • Robust cross-cutting funding for industrial decarbonization efforts
  • Direction to consider the benefits of public and nonprofit ownership of clean energy and transmission resources and strategies to increase democratic participation in the clean energy transition
  • Funding to demonstrate operation of the electricity grid with very high levels of renewable penetration
  • Support for efforts to reduce barriers to solar and energy efficiency adoption for low-income households, renters, multifamily homes, and communities of color
  • Support for offshore wind demonstration projects and onsite manufacturing of very large wind turbines
  • Funding and direction to accelerate adoption of electric heat pumps and take advantage of flexible demand technologies
  • Funding and direction to support development of Environmental Product Declarations to track the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of materials

We Need Much Larger Investments to Match Our Crises

While the House bill includes excellent new direction for DOE, the funding levels are insufficient to fully realize the goals embodied in the bill. The President’s budget proposes historic funding increases for clean energy, including a 65 percent increase to the annual budget of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE houses almost all of the agency’s work to support renewable electricity, zero-emission transportation, clean manufacturing and heavy industry, and building decarbonization. These efforts are particularly underfunded relative to the need for investment, and the office will play a critical role if the Biden administration is to fulfill its promise to “Build Back Better.”

However, the House bill falls short of the increases necessary to drive clean energy innovation, create family-supporting jobs, and bring clean energy to more communities across the country. The additional funds provided to EERE, totaling $907 million, would be less than half what the President requested, and are likely to leave out critical investments to fill the gaps in the agency's efforts.

For example, the President’s budget request includes $300 million for Build Back Better grants to support states, tribes, and local governments, while the House bill only includes $100 million. The House also reduced the President’s requested 86% increase for wind energy technologies by over 30%, which will curtail the scope of offshore wind projects. Energy efficiency offices, whose budgets the Biden-Harris administration proposed increasing by 97%, are allocated a 36% budget increase by this bill. Efforts to reduce the federal government’s outsize energy footprint and bring the economic, health, and safety benefits of energy efficiency to low-income and marginalized communities through state and local programs will be much more effective with greater funding levels.

NRDC has identified a need for even larger increases for EERE funding than were included in the President’s budget, including increases over FY21 levels of $220 million for solar energy, $110 million for wind energy, $310 million for building technologies, and $240 million for local government support.

The same budget bill which comes up short on clean energy also provides $15.5 billion, equal to the President’s budget request, for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons activities. This is more than four times the entire budget of EERE. Moreover, it provides the Army Corps of Engineers nearly $2 billion above the President’s request. President Biden’s clean energy proposals also merit full funding.

To build on the progress that leaders in Congress have secured over the past few years and make a clean and equitable future possible, we urge lawmakers to go further by modifying this budget to bring clean energy investment at least to the levels of President Biden’s request. That’s what’s required to accelerate us toward the clean energy future we need for our families and communities.

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